A chapter in gundog competition history was written in the Irish Isles during the week of May 20 to May 30, 2004. The beautiful grounds of Moria Demse, N. Ireland was the sight of the 2004 Irish Field Sports National Game Fair which hosts the Irish Sea International Gundog Championship and the National Individual Gundog Working Tests.

On May 29, 2004, the USA Gundog Team placed first in the prestigious P & O Irish Sea International Gundog Challenge. The team also won the Atlantic Cup International Team Competition. The winning team consisted of Mike Stewart and Drake, the Ducks Unlimited Mascot, Bill Gibson and Jet, our upland hunting representative, Marty Newport handling Bob, a Wildrose sire and Boss, an AKC Senior Hunter of American genetics.

Blackharn Bob, a popular Wildrose sire, handled by Marty Newport of Highmark Kennels, put forth a stellar performance receiving the award for overall "Top Dog" for both international tests!! He went head to head with Burt Taylor's 1999 British Retriever Championship winner, FTCh Stiverson Dipper, holding his own to a narrow one-point final score to Dipper's advantage.

Six teams of four (all Labradors) competed on Saturday, May 29, 2004 International Test
1st - USA: Irish Sea International and Top Dog (Bob) - 284 points
1st - USA: Atlantic Cup and Top Dog (Bob)
2nd - Scotland - 252 points
3rd - N. Ireland - 249 points
4th - England - 226 points
Republic of Ireland - ranked 5th - 182 points
Wales - ranked 6th - 123 points

On the second day of events, the team achieved additional firsts. I had the privilege of being the first U.S. person approved to judge a British Kennel Club sanctioned working test. The 3-judge panel saw 33 dogs during the day with Scotland taking the top 4 honors. This was not a team event. Each dog/handler was scored individually. Two of our dogs did quite well in the advanced; Bob and Boss ranking 6th and 7th respectively. Meanwhile, Marty ran Boss in a separate Novice class of 30 dogs placing 1st overall.

Here is a quick summary of other significant achievements for the USA team.
  • The first U. S. gundogs ever to enter the UK under the Pet Passport Program for competition purposes, an interesting ordeal to say the least.
  • Drake became the first US retriever in history to the line of competition sanctioned by the British Kennel Club anywhere in the United Kingdom. (Hillsborough, N. Ireland, May 22, 2004)
  • Bob and Marty were the first US dog/handler to do the same at Omeath, Republic of Ireland. This test was licensed under Irish Kennel Club and run under their rules. Yet, another first.
  • Boss became the first US dog to run in competition for a UK team, the N. Irish Gundog Field and Show Club, a club of which Wildrose is a member. The team also included Nigel Carville, our UK associate running Brook, a FTW and littermate to our own Ash. The team took 2nd place in the Eukanuba Interclub Challenge.
Individual awards achieved during the week:
Bob - 2 Top Dog Overall Awards (24 dogs) - Irish Sea International and the Atlantic Cup Competition, May 29, 2004

Boss - Top US Dog, Hillsborough, N. Ireland, May 22, 2004 Top N. Irish Club Dog - Eukanuba Interclub (N. Irish Team), May 25, 2004

Drake - Top US Dog, Eukanuba Interclub Challenge, May 25, 2004

Jet - Top US Dog, Omeath, Republic of Ireland, May 23, 2004

Another unique first was a rabbit hunt using ferrets with our friends from N. Ireland, a novel experience unlike anything we had experienced in the field. Drake and Jet were used as pick-up dogs on the evening's hunt. Fur didn't deter their exuberance in the least with each retrieving 4 rabbits-12 taken in all. I am quite sure no US retriever has had such an opportunity, but I can safely say Drake and Jet would recommend it. Drake actually sat shaking at heel in anticipation.

Our schedule was as follows: May 22 - Hillsborough Working Test, Lisburn, N. Ireland Team Test - 4th place
May 23 - Astraglen Working Test, Armice, Republic of Ireland, Team Test - 3rd place
May 25 - Eukanuba Interclub Challenge - #5 of 10 teams
May 26 - Filming for DU TV and Lisburn Department of Tourism
May 28 - Rabbit hunt with ferrets and labs
May 29 - P & O International Championship - 1st place
Atlantic Cup Championship - 1st place
May 30 - Novice Test - Boss - 1st place of 29 dogs
Advanced Test - Bob - 6th of 33 dogs
Boss - 7th of 33 dogs
Mike Stewart judged as a panel of 3 judges in the advanced test

A busy schedule, but what an experience!! I wish to thank the following sponsors of the US Gundog Team who made this trip possible:
Eukanuba Dog Food
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Mossy Oak
Barbour, N. America

Their commitment to shooting sports and gundogs should not go unnoticed.

A special thanks to Nigel Carville and Bill Beckett of N. Ireland for their tireless efforts to assemble the schedule of activities and competitions-7 competition events and one hunt plus unbelievable tours, all in 10 days. A remarkable trip that was only possible through our sponsors' generosity and the fantastic support of our N. Irish friends and associates, Nigel and Bill.

I will send along 2 other reports on the N. Ireland experience. The first will detail the test and our training preparations. The second will describe one of the wildest hunting experiences I have ever encountered with gundogs… rabbit hunting with ferrets and labs.

2005 Irish Championship, Wildrose partner, Nigel Carville and Brooke, Championship winner

Training Pictures - CLICK HERE

Team Competition Itinerary - CLICK HERE

Training for the Irish Championship - CLICK HERE

Visit Irish Field Sports, N. Ireland - CLICK HERE